Left: Dom Maurus Wolter, Abbot of Beuron; right: Dom Prosper Guéranger, Abbot of Solesmes.
The Benedictine Art of Government
The nineteenth century was a springtime of monastic restoration in old Europe. Early in May 1863, Dom Prosper Guéranger, abbot of Solesmes addressed a letter to the young prior of Beuron in Germany, the meticulous and somewhat rigid Dom Maurus Wolter. Dom Guéranger had, at this time, a quarter of a century of experience as founding abbot of Solesmes. He had learned, on his own, how to foster unity of purpose and of means in a community of men from a variety of backgrounds, many of them clerics, and each one having, and sometimes clinging to, his own idea of what monastic life ought to be. Dom Guéranger governed with gentleness, with love, and with an astonishing breadth of view. This is what he wrote . . . personally, I take it to heart here at Silverstream Priory, and try to put it into practice.
Take care of your health; you need it, and it doesn’t belong to you.
Making use of every means, foster a holy liberty of spirit among your monks, and do everything to make them love their state of life more than anything else in the world.
Make yourself loved always and in all things. Be a mother rather than a father to your sons.
Imitate the patience of God, and don’t demand of spring the fruits of autumn.
Always be approachable to all; avoid etiquette and ceremony. Come as close as you can to the familiarity you have seen practised at Solesmes.
Adapt yourself to everyone, and don’t try to adapt others to yourself, because God created us all different, and you are really the servant of all, like Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Take scrupulous care of the health of each one, and don’t wait for a serious infirmity before giving a dispensation.
Establish the observance gradually, and don’t be afraid to take a step backwards when you see that you have gone too far.
Don’t worry yourself too much about the contacts with the outside world that your religious may have, if they have the spirit of their state, and if it is a question of the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Remember that the spirit of faith is the one and only basis of the monastic life.
Inspire the love of the Sacred Liturgy, which is the centre of all Christianity.
Have your monks study with love the Acta Sanctorum Ordinis, the Annals, and also the history of individual monasteries.
Take care that they study theology, especially Saint Thomas, Canon Law, and Church history.
Finally, strive to increase in your sons love of the Church and of the Holy See.